This painting provides a most elegant confirmation of the known details of Van kuijl’s life. The theme of musical companies such as this was one of the favorite subjects of his teacher Gerrit van Honthorst and his followers, notably among the circle of Caravaggesque painters based in Utrecht (to which Van Kuijl was evidently connected), who had seen this aspect of Caravaggio’s style in Rome and imported it to the northern Netherlands in the first half of the seventeenth century. This seems to be the largest and grandest of Van Kuijl’s several treatments of the subject. The earliest is the Musical Company of 1651 in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in which some motifs such as the viol-da-gamba player anchoring one side of the composition and the young boy at the table are common to this painting too.1 A similar date of execution should be considered for the present work. In another canvas of 1662, a Concert today in the Gorkums Museum in Gorinchem, we see a very similar young girl – perhaps the same model - holding music in the foreground and a similar youth in a feathered cap playing the violin.2 The motif of the figures gathered around a table draped with a carpet is repeated in another undated canvas of a Musical company sold London, Christie’s, 23 April 1993, lot 16, and here too a viol-da-gamba player holds the left side of the composition.3 In these three paintings, the influence of Gerrit van Honthorst is less keenly felt than in the work in Amsterdam.
Although the earliest history of this painting is not yet known, as Guido Jansen has recently observed (private communication), it is tempting to associate it with Van kuijl’s circle of friends and patrons in Gorinchem, and in particular to the family of his fellow student Alexander van Wevelinchoven. His wife Margaretha’s sister, Maria, was married into the van Wevelinchoven family, and Van kuijl is known to have painted portraits of individual members of the family as well as a group portrait. This latter is now untraced but like the present painting also seems to have had a subsequent history in Germany, in this case being recorded among German descendants of the Van Wevelinchoven family in their castle, Schloss Wohfskuhlen, near Rheinberg in Westphalia. It is very possible that his picture’s traditional provenance in ‘an old Rhenish Noble family’ may hint at a similar fortune, but no inventories have survived which can securely establish this.
1. Canvas 99 x 131 cm. For which see E.J. Sluijter, ‘Niet Gysbert van der Kuyl iut Gouda, maar Gerard van Kuijl uit Gorinchem (1604-1673)’, in Oud Holland, 91, 1977, pp. 166-194, cat. no. A8.
2. Canvas 118 x 150 cm. Sluyters 1977, cat. no. A10.
3. Canvas 124 x 180 cm. Sluyters 1977, cat. no. A7.
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